About Nick Melone

I come from Northeast Ohio, ventured out to Montana for college and fell in love with the mountains. Have found my way bouncing around from state to state out west.

A Farewell to Buffalo

2016-12-02-12-58-40The seasons are changing here in Buffalo, since the last blog post we’ve been hit with our first large snowstorm, and there is a looming cold front soon to demand warm blankets and hot chocolates out of all of us. But I’ll be out of here before that hits! The last month or so has been filled with wrapping up the finishing touches on my seven or so month internship. Included in that has been assisting with rangeland health reports, NEPA documentation, and as always some GIS mapping. But, at last I am about to head on out of Buffalo. The last seven months have been both a blast and one heck of a learning experience. And no better way to expand on just how much has gone on this internship than one big ol’ list!

  • Enormous amounts of new botany knowledge. From little to a lot in a short while.
  • A Chicago Botanic Garden intern workshop. A week of lectures and learning. Also meeting the many other lovely interns. Not to mention all the coffee.
  • Expansive training. A week-long AIM (Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring) training, 4×4 driving, UTV driving, CRP & First Aid, GIS training.
  • 36 or so Rangeland AIM plots established and completed.
  • GIS Mapping of fencelines, allotments, pastures, wells, reservoirs, etc.
  • Microsoft Access database entry and report creating.
  • NEPA documentation.
  • Report writing.
  • NISIMS (weed database) mapping.
  • Environmental Education opportunities.
  • Office filing.
  • Fixing up of the Range Improvements Database
  • Many other small but meaningful tasks.

And of course the fun stuff:

  • A trip to Grand Teton National Park and Salt Lake City.
  • A trip up to Bozeman, MT and Missoula, MT.
  • Starting mountain biking.
  • Starting to learn guitar.
  • An outstanding time at a mountain festival know as Antelope Butte in the Bighorn NF.
  • My first ever competitive trail running race.
  • Many weekends spent camping.
  • First time actually catching fish while fly fishing.
  • First time seeing a moose.
  • Yet another trip to Grand Teton National Park, with a short visit into Yellowstone.
  • An outstanding trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Zion NP, and back to Salt Lake.
  • Visiting the lovely land of Nova Scotia.
  • First time ever backpacking alone in the wilderness.

Boy, I am sure I am still missing some things. Overall it has been an incredible time and an incredible internship. My confidence in my abilities to be an ecologist, biologist, or who knows maybe even a botanist in the future has grown immensely. The list of skills gained is expansive, and so is the practical knowledge. For those wondering what Buffalo is all about, it is a small town, but it has its charm. If the city is all to go on then maybe the internship could be a drag (though I sure enjoy bluegrass jams at the local saloon), but with the Bighorn Mountains on your doorstep, and a fantastic office to work for it’d be hard to pass up the chance to take an internship here. The internship offered a large amount of freedom, which is perhaps a little daunting early on.  Though by the end you’ve realized that independence was a benefit. It challenged my fellow intern, Corinne, and I to plan our field season mostly independent of the staff here, a skill that is invaluable. Throughout this whole position I had felt as though I was a part of this office, both asking questions of the people around me, and having them ask questions of me. And now it is a little sad to be leaving, but with this internship under my belt I can now enter the unknown of 2017’s field seasons with confidence, with future grad/career opportunities beyond.


Farewell Buffalo!

Nick Melone

The Buffalo Life

Things have slowed down a decent amount in the last month. With colder weather creeping in and office work taking over, time blurs together, yet to my amazement we are now near the end of October. Time in the office has been spent mostly mapping fencing across our field office, primarily for grazing allotments monitored from this year. Some of the allotments done this year will be part of a broader range-land health report on a watershed scale. And in order to accurately state the extent of the report we need to know the real size of the allotments based off of where the fences actually lie. While mapping fencing may not sound thrilling, there is something calming and rewarding about finding those many lines that cross the landscape.


Atop Mosier Gulch trail, looking ahead to the Bighorn Mountains. A great day for some mountain biking.

But mapping fencing is not the only thing to be done. Weeding of course is still on the to do list. The same weeding found on the vegetation plots mentioned last blog. Yet incredibly the end of that is on the horizon! Only 5 out of the 24 plots remain. We have also recently opened the door to range-land improvements. These improvements include fences, wells, spring developments, reservoirs, roads, etc. that are located on BLM land. These need to be located through mapping or in the field, they ideally need to be regularly inspected, they need to contain a physical file, and also need to be included in an online database. Since so many factors involve each improvement there is of course work to be done resolving discrepancies and conducting inspections in the field.

Beyond the excitement of work has been the last of the warmer activities in the mountains. One weekend I had the chance to meet up with the many Lander, WY interns for a trip in the Western Bighorn Mountains. To my luck I received a call about the trip minutes before heading out on a backpacking trip of my own. I met up with them at the trailhead later on in the day and we had set up camp not far from West Tensleep Lake. This had been the first night I’ve ever slept atop a tarp with nothing overhead. And what a night it was to do so. That night we had dew collect upon everything exposed, and the temperature had dropped below freezing.


Waking up to a frost covered sleeping bag was certainly a first for me, although miraculously it was a toasty night in the bag. After a hearty breakfast we ventured off to the next location down-trail. At Helen Lake we set up the next camp and I had time to do some fly fishing for the day. It was a beautiful day and I even got to nap in in the hammock after fishing. Beyond the nice weather hid looming overnight storms. And to my shock (which shouldn’t have been unexpected in early October) was some late night and early morning snow. Frost on the sleeping the first night, and a snowy tent the second. Both firsts for me. But even though it was as cold as it looks, the valley was gorgeous with all the snow.


Lake Helen up West Tensleep Trail


A gorgeous view just waiting to be snowed on


First time waking up to a snowy campsite!

After all the fun of camping in a large group, the next weekend I planned to continue the initial backpacking trip I had sought after. The destination was the Firehole Lakes up near Bighorn Peak on the Eastern side of the mountains. This 5-6 mile hike including an off trail section crossing boulder fields. Finding a site to camp up near the bottoms of the high peaks is difficult due to the rockiness of the Bighorns. But after finding an adequate sight I had noticed the plethora of moose activity in the area. Stripped bark, chomped young trees, and no shortage of moose poo. All this activity led to the unsurprising, yet still unnerving calls of an animal near the tent before bed. While exciting to hear the moose nearby, I was also reconsidering placing my tent on this moose’s favorite tree chomping spot. But nevertheless the moose had moved on and/or found a resting spot for the night, and wasn’t heard again.


After a night of waking up nearly every hour (the wind was obscene that night) I was awoken to an absolutely incredible sunrise. I may have missed the reddest moments of the sunrise but I got quite the show when I walked down to the lake. This trip also initially had the goal of catching some of the larger fish found in these lakes. But with no luck the day before or the morning after, I eventually started working my way out, only to finally catch a small fish in a tiny stream a mile back.



A stream on the way out of the Firehole Lakes. And of course the only place where I catch a fish that weekend.

The last month has primarily been spent in the near and dear Buffalo area, but it’s hard to complain with the Bighorns just minutes away. With the cold weather setting in I’ll hopefully take advantage of the nicer days left before the near sedentary life sets in. Til next time!

Nick Melone

Buffalo, WY

Work and Play

The Work (The Weeds)

Since wrapping up our main portion of the field season we have been doing any and all tasks that have come up. Corinne and I have been primarily occupied with the many weeds-related activities. One of which includes pulling weeds quite regularly for a vegetation plot found on BLM land within a special recreation area known as Welch Ranch. While pulling weeds on a vegetation plot may sound like a relatively simple task, (and at any given moment it is) never could I have imagined we’d be needing to pull out what seems like 99.9% of the plants found on the plot. While progress has been made, progress has also been slow, and a task that started a ways back still requires work to be done. The weeds are certainly relentless.

Since weeds not only grow on research vegetation plots, we were honored to help out Justin with his weed mapping activities. We joined in on an adventure to help locate the many invasive and weedy plants that had grown out in the field. The database we were adding to, known as NISIMS (the acronym is a difficult one to remember what it stands for), is one we are becoming familiar with recently. And so we had a fun filled day of hiking and mapping, and with this training we are now involved with a large-scale weed mapping project at Welch Ranch.


Justin and Corinne on a mission to find the weeds.


Justin mapping weeds with tenacity. As Justin may say: No dreams weeds, only tears.

While we’ve just recently begun our time at Welch Ranch, we have certainly been shown quite the task ahead. Welch Ranch, the location of the infamous vegetation plot, contains a great variety of NISIMS species requiring mapping. With many walking points to map, and hills to traverse, we may be looking at many many miles of fieldwork over the course of coming weeks.


Located at Welch Ranch is a coal seam that has been on fire for some time. Fairly surreal to stand over smoking, hot, moist air coming from deep underground. The cheatgrass sure loves it though.

The Play

Recently I took off for an 11 day adventure across Colorado and primarily Utah. I had been looking forward to taking off a chunk of days for quite some time now. And with Labor Day around the corner I got to planning. The trip would include friends visiting in Fort Collins, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Zion NP (the main goal), and visiting a friend in Salt Lake City. Quite the adventure ahead with an unfortunate amount of driving.

The first stop was Fort Collins, and with lucky timing I was able to make the annual Tour de Fat put on by New Belgium Brewing Company. Missing this event the year prior it was great to finally make it. And what an event it is. Also a difficult one to fully describe. Involved is a celebration of biking and dressing up in costumes with no discernible theme. The highlight for me may have been a 4-person tandem bicycle pulling a giant rocket with a man playing guitar and singing atop. Beyond the fascinating costumes and bicycles comes the multitude of strange events, such as the slow ride, live music, and a bike pulled karaoke stage.


A glimpse of the Tour de Fat action.

But eventually my time in Fort Collins was at an end, and I was off to see some nature. The first trek was off to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. At first arrival I decided to shake out the legs by going on a 6-7 mile trail run atop the canyon. And what a canyon it is. The scale is pretty incredible and also difficult to fully capture in pictures. With steep, dark, hard rock walls, the canyon is very dramatic. But sadly I was still on a self-imposed schedule to make it to Utah the next afternoon so I did not get to spend nearly as much time as I would have liked there.


The Black Canyon in all its glory.

Southern Utah, National Parks, Moab, trails, biking, running, where to even start. This section of the trip was a blast. Never having been to the Southern Utah region and always hearing about it, it was finally time to make the trip. Starting off in Moab was a fantastic dive into limitless recreation activities. With Arches, Canyonlands, and extensive opportunities on BLM and Forest Service land nearby it’d be hard to run out of things to do there. Arches proved to be even more fun than I had originally expected. While I only had an afternoon to explore, I went on a long and scenic hike/run in the Devil’s Garden. This may have been the most fun I’ve ever had on a trail. Beyond the obvious scenic locations (arches, etc.), was traversing atop sandstone ridges, following rock cairns, and moving along sandy trails. It truly felt like a natural made playground.

Canyonlands was filled with some massive views. Most of my day there was spent on short hikes, and I can say for sure that I saw a good chunk of the Island in the Sky region. And after attempting to take it easy that day (a sure failure on my part), I ended up going on my first mountain biking ride outside Moab. Finding a significantly more difficult trail than I was capable of doing was apparently my choice for the day. With the grace of a fainting goat, I tackled the trail and was off to Zion the next day.

The three pictures blow are: Arches (Double O Arch), Canyonlands (the view from Island in the Sky), and Zion (Angel’s Landing)

20160905_17195420160906_11515220160907_172352 Zion National Park was easily the highlight of the whole trip. Seeing pictures and being blown away by the supposed views, I had to set several days for the park. The first hike I attempted was the well known Angel’s Landing hike, a hike known for multiple reasons. One, the views are incredible atop Angel’s Landing. Two, it is known to be a semi-dangerous hike with a fairly exposed scramble to the top. And three, it has a steep section of switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles. While several people have died here over the past 12 years, and with nearby drop offs sure to challenge those with a fear of heights, it is fairly reassuring knowing how many people make it to the top daily, and that chains are present to grab all along the way.

My last and worthwhile adventure in Zion was a solo backpacking trip through Echo Canyon. I was off to the East Rim of Zion, a location that appears to see somewhat little backpacking, likely due to the lack of water once reaching the camping zone. And the hike I chose to get there wasn’t lacking on the elevation gain either (roughly 2,400 ft in 4 or so miles). But setting up my hammock atop a mesa overlooking the canyon was a great end to my outdoors portion of my trip. My last several days were spent in Salt Lake City for the cozy household life, and ultimately making it back to Buffalo.


The spot for the night in Zion

All in all it was an incredible time and a rejuvenating break from the work-life. Now back onto the weeds.

Nick Melone

Buffalo, WY



Bonus: Little lady dog creeping out the truck, silently judging our Chinese Buffet food choices.


Summer Well Spent

Finally a Blog
3 months in and finally working my way into the blog-life, and with what amounts to a full summer of field-work and fun I should have plenty of topics to cover!

Back in May I moved into Buffalo, WY for my internship focusing on rangeland management with the BLM. For this internship I have been working with my fellow intern Corinne doing AIM (Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring) on public lands managed by the BLM. Assigned to us was a list of plots for monitoring, and with the task ahead it didn’t take long to realize the immense amount of plant identification I’d need to learn. And beyond identification was learning the ins and outs of the BLM, what exactly it means to manage these rangelands, how to map out our routes, how to plan for the field season, etc. Well now that 3 months has passed it’s safe to say it’s going splendid. Time has flown by with both a busy field-season and fun-filled freetime.

Seeing as there is a wealth of topics to cover from this summer, I will just touch up on some of the highlights.


Wyoming has some pretty incredible places. Outlaw Cave, West of Kaycee, WY. Nearby many of our sites this summer.

Training (May-never ending)

Plant ID, AIM, 4×4, UTV, First Aid, CPR, CLM Workshop, more Plant ID, more AIM. The training going into the position was quite extensive. While it almost felt like the field work would never start, by the time it did I was both thankful for the amount of training there was and also still loaded with questions. Besides the basic intro to the job, including tours of the office, meet and greet, and a brief overview, our first trip included heading to Rock Springs, WY for our training on AIM. Included was a full week of lectures and field-work with a handful of other BLM employees and partners. Ultimately this created a rather comical train of government vehicles heading to and from field sites! All in all this was an outstanding chance to learn the AIM methods I would be using all summer long. This included line-point intercept, measuring gaps, soil stability tests, digging and classifying a soil pit (although this is task Corinne and I were lucky to not have to do for every plot!), identifying every species in a plot, and general site descriptions.


A sea of government vehicles. Just outside Rock Springs, WY.

Also included in our Rock Springs trip was the chance to eat at the many fine dining locations! This certainly felt like the topic of the week. Rock Springs is by no means a large city, but with Buffalo being as small as it is it was nice to have some options to eat out, which included Sushi! Although I wish I had been aware of the Rock Springs burger challenge beforehand, as it required just 4 different burger dinners in the month of May, and included the prize of a Burger Challenge T-shirt, and a certificate congratulating your achievement (a good resume builder).

With the end of a week of Rock Springs training, and a trip to Chicago not far in the future, things were starting to come together. The gap was filled with some limited monitoring and range team visits to previous year sites. This was a great chance to see the magic happen. The full group would each use their skills to describe the condition and health of the rangeland being monitored. This was one of the better chances we’ve had to kick back some and learn from the experts. Between rangeland health indicators and soil profiles it was great to see exactly what we are working towards with our upcoming monitoring.

Finally come mid-June and with the CLM workshop in Chicago over and done Corinne and I could dive into our monitoring.

Red Walls and AIM

After getting some smaller sites out of the way, our first big venture was to the Red Wall and our sites located around the Hole in the Wall. The Hole in the Wall was a location where Outlaws had spent time to live and dodge lawmen, and also where they could pass through the Red Wall. This location is also where you find cows grazing and rangeland technicians measuring grasses, but that may be less exciting and not warranting of a movie.


A wonky cow near the Hole in the Wall, perhaps one of the infamous outlaws.

In total there were 10 sites in this country and without camping it is uncertain as to how some of the sites would get accomplished. With slow going roads and roughly a two hour drive just to get into the Southern entrance to the area it was quite the secluded area to spend our week. No surprise as to why outlaws enjoyed this area, with its Red Wall to the East and canyons breaking up the land from North to South. The week included lots of red soils, sage-grouse, many unknown plants, nighthawk nests, lots of hiking around, extensive need for maps, gps, and compass, and wind (lots of it).


A good look at the Red Wall

While that week may have been our busiest, we have also had many trips in the nearby area as well as sites spread across the Southern Bighorn Mountains. Just recently we had finally called it on our sites for the field-season, and are now hitting up the office work. While it’s slow going with data entry, it is a welcome break from the elements.

Fun Times Outside Work

Field-work has been a blast, and at the end of our main portion I certainly feel accomplished, but ultimately my free-time is where most of my memories have been made this summer. Great friends and incredible trips have filled just about every weekend thus far. Whether it was camping, fishing, hiking, running, biking, music,or just getting out and traveling, it has been one busy summer and it’d be hard to say I’ve wasted any of it.

One of the greatest weekends of all time probably came from a trip into the Northern Bighorns for the Antelope Butte Summer Festival. I can’t say that I have ever attended a music festival in my life and this could be a hard one to beat if I make it to others in the future. A weekend of smaller music shows, running and biking competitions, food, camping, great people, yoga, and a pancake breakfast. Quite the combination I’d say. It was also my first chance to run in a competitive trail race, and at 15.5 miles (25km) it was a big step for me and my muscles (which hurt a good amount after). I was also delighted to have convinced someone to run in my race with me just the night before. I was beyond impressed and motivated knowing he had not been running much, if at all recently, and by the end he kicked some serious butt(e).


The stage at Antelope Butte. Felt like a close knit crowd with the small numbers!

One of the most recent weekends I am sure I could go on about is a trip to Grand Teton National Park, but I’ll keep it brief. This area has become one of the prettiest places I have ever visited. With intimidating mountain ranges and beautiful lakes, I could spent a fair amount of time here I’m sure. We were thrilled to have camped at a backcountry site in the park itself. While it wasn’t our original choice, we did end up at an incredible site by Phelps Lake in the Southern section of the park. With a great view and a cliff to jump off of into the lake it was quite the spot!


Phelps Lake at Grand Teton National Park.

There is certainly so much more to the summer, but with office work in the future there should be plenty of time to work on the blog.

Til next time! (Hopefully not 3 more months)

Nick Melone, Buffalo, WY


Just a couple sheep blocking the road.